Why Your ‘Important & Urgent’ To-Dos are Holding You Back From Clarity


As a leader, you so often have a million things to get done.

You have your big list, dutifully written out every single day.

This deadline, that meeting…

It all seems like it needs to be done NOW.

Take a peek at the bottom of that list.

Is it the same as yesterday’s list?

Did you check off the top few things on that list…and then replace them with today’s version of URGENT?

Things that have to do with long-term Vision and short-term clarity are probably at the bottom of that list. If they even are on there at all.

One of the BIGGEST challenges as a leader is figuring out where to put your focus. Like a garden, your business needs to be nurtured. 

As the quote by Harv Eker goes, “Where attention goes, energy flows and results show.”

It can be SO easy to spend your time fighting fires and tending to whatever feels “urgent” today. 

But I’ve got to be real with you. 

Those “urgent” tasks are NOT always the things you need to be focusing on as a leader.

In today’s post, I want to explore how the idea of “urgent but not important” holds leaders back –  and how you can reframe your mindset to make sure that you actually prioritize the things that will drive your business forward. Let’s get into it!

How to determine what is important, urgent, or both

Have you heard of the Eisenhower matrix? It’s a quadrant with columns for “Important” and “Not Important”, and rows for “Urgent” and “Not Urgent”.

Using the Eisenhower matrix, we can divide things into four categories: 

– Urgent, and important

– Urgent, and not important

– Not urgent, and not important

– Not urgent, and important

Splitting things out into these four quadrants helps you identify where you are right now. It helps you prioritize and focus on what you need to do now and what you can work on later.

Now I want you to ask yourself, when you’re thinking of your time management and all of the things you have to do – what do you prioritize?

When you draw out this matrix, are things like client work or scheduling in your “important” and “urgent” quadrant?

What about things like gaining clarity on your Vision, creating the Roadmap to get there and determining the goals and milestones along the way? 

While The Eisenhower Matrix is a great tool, I wanted to develop one specifically for leaders so they could easily integrate it into their routine with a visual of where to channel their energy on a daily basis. 

My Decision-Maker’s Matrix will help you filter out distractions during your day and keep you laser-focused on doing the right work at the right time. You’ll wind down feeling encouraged rather than discouraged, and instead of taking two steps forward and one step back you’ll start making huge strides that propel you forward.

For your own copy of the Decision Maker’s Matrix, and to see which things on your list are in the ‘proactive zone’, ‘reactive zone’ ‘bottleneck zone’ and ‘in the weeds zone’ – plus what step to take next with each one, click HERE

Where does clarity fall in your matrix?

Here’s the thing – as a leader, you most likely know that clarity is incredibly important -not just for running your business, but for creating the life you really want in all aspects – personal, professional, financial, relational and spiritual (if that resonates with you). 

There isn’t one leader I’ve talked to that doesn’t recognize the importance of clarity.

However, the issue is that when you have so many “urgent” things on your plate, clarity usually falls straight to the bottom of your list.

And it stays there.

It becomes that thing that you say you’ll do once you go on that work retreat, do your quarterly planning, or you give yourself an afternoon off just to focus on CEO level tasks.

NONE of which ever happen – because it always feels like you have 8 million other things to do.

When items end up at the bottom of your priority list, you often notice them, and maybe even feel a tinge of shame about them.

It feels like they’re sitting there, staring at you. Nagging you, even. 

The more time goes on, the farther “clarity/Vision/Roadmap/goals”  moves down the list.

You may even begin to resent seeing it there, resisting it, putting it off.

As a result, you can never seem to find the time to get to it. 

Sigh… 

Why your big-picture items get left behind

Does the scenario above sound familiar?

We’ve all been there, Visionary.

Let’s break down *exactly* why tasks like gaining clarity on your Vision, the Roadmap to get there and the goals and milestones along the way always seem to fall to the wayside. 

Here’s how it goes down 👇🏼

If you’re anything like most leaders I work with, you have a TON of things on your to-do list.

 right? They all feel incredibly important. They’re also urgent – meaning they all have a deadline, or your team is relying on and waiting on you to complete them.

At first glance, it would seem that you’d want to get those things done first.

Then, you look down your list and you see big-picture tasks. Take Visioning, for example.

You might think to yourself, “Wow…that feels really big. Where the heck would I even start?”

You might even feel exhausted just thinking about it, like it would take up so much time, energy, and mental brain space and you’d have no idea how to even pull it off. 

In essence, these big-picture tasks make you feel COMPLETELY overwhelmed.

So what do you do? 

You brush it off. You push it away, or put it back at  the bottom of your list, so that you don’t have to deal with it.

As humans, we’re prone to avoid things that we don’t know exactly how to do. If you’re not sure where to start with something or if the energy you put in won’t reap an immediate reward, you’re probably not going to want to do it. That’s just how most leaders are wired. 

So what do you do instead? 

You do the things you already know how to do, the ones you’ve done a million times over. You stay in our comfort zone.

If you can’t even wrap your mind around something, it’s hard to get excited about it in the first place.

And the longer you don’t have clarity in your business and in your life, the more elusive it feels. 

The more you put off gaining that clarity, the harder it becomes to achieve to create the future you truly want, both professionally and personally.

Are you being proactive or reactive? 

If you find yourself feeling all over the place, here’s something I want you to think about.

Do you ever feel like if someone asked you what you did all day, you might end up saying something like…

“While my title may be CEO, I’m honestly a firefighter, because I ALL I do is fight fires – all. day. long.”

If the answer is yes, you might be stuck doing things that are “urgent”.

Even though it can be chaotic and mentally, emotionally and physically draining – it’s your safety zone. It is what you do. You know how to operate there. You are good at putting out fires and that makes you feel valuable.

It makes sense that you would want to stay in that space!

I want you to take stock and see if you consistently find yourself in firefighter mode.

Although it causes your anxiety to run high and leaves you flat out exhausted at the end of the day, you might find yourself constantly showing up as the ‘firefighter’ because it’s where you’re comfortable. And as a result, you’re likely putting yourself into that situation – again and again.

BUT when you stay there, you end up being reactive instead of proactive. 

When you get stuck in that reactive mode, you might even start to create urgency where there isn’t any.

Try this exercise I use with my 1-1 clients to shift from reactive to proactive:

Ask yourself:
– What does ‘created urgency’ vs. ‘true urgency’ look like in your business?
– What are the things you’re creating more urgency around than there actually needs to be?
– If you take a step back and get really honest with yourself, which of the things that feel urgent could be left undone (or done by someone other than you) without major consequence?

Remember: just because fighting fires all day is your default, does NOT mean it’s the best use of your time as a leader. In order to prioritize some of those higher-level items you need to be able to break through the noise of whatever’s urgent today. 

The problem with ‘not urgent’ tasks

During one of my Visioning workshops in San Diego I was sharing these concepts with the group, and a financial advisor participating raised her hand.  She proceeded to share some Visionary wisdom that really put things into perspective. 

She said that she refers to the ‘not urgent’ category as ‘not yet urgent’.  All her clients recognize that retirement planning is important, but it’s not urgent for all of them today.  The thing is, it will definitely become urgent for every single one of them, and if they wait until that point, they’ll be stuck in an uphill battle.  

Boom.

When we think of something as ‘not urgent’, it’s easy to dismiss it for ‘someday’ pile which often means ‘never’.

But if you reframe that thing as ‘not yet urgent’ you remind yourself that you have an opportunity to be proactive and get ahead of it before it becomes urgent.

If you wait until things become urgent before you focus on them, you’ll be approaching them from a rushed, reactive, frantic place, and that’s not where your mind does its best work.

By letting your ‘not urgent’ tasks become urgent, you’re putting yourself right back into firefighting mode. 

If you focus only on what’s important and urgent today, your business will still grow, but it will grow incrementally.

As a Visionary leader you have the opportunity to carve out and protect time for what’s important but not yet urgent, and THAT is how you will grow exponentially.

Carving out and protecting your time

Do you have time for yourself, ever?

If so, do you create solid boundaries around that time?

You schedule that time on your calendar and block out your availability…

But then something comes up.

And there goes that ‘blocked out’ time.

It’s always the first thing to go by the wayside.

You may have been given this old tip:

Schedule a meeting on your calendar with yourself, but treat it’s like a meeting with your biggest client.

The problem is, nobody really follows through with this advice.

Sure, you can try to play pretend, but you still know that the only person who will be showing up for that time is you, so you haven’t solved the real issue.

You know that the point of blocking off time for yourself is to honor how important the relationship with yourself, your time, and your business truly is.

Unfortunately, it’s not always that simple.

Say you do make a concerted effort to carve out that time. You’ve penciled it in, blocked it off, and you are DETERMINED to make it happen.

Now you now need to create boundaries around that time.

You need to actively protect that time because I guarantee you…things will come up.

And pretty soon you’ll be tossing that hard-earned time right down the drain.

Let’s get into one of my favorite strategies to make sure that NEVER happens and you always have the time to create clarity for yourself and your business. 👇🏼

How to create your Visionary Power Time

Sit back for a second.

Take a deep breath.

Now, get out a piece of paper, and draw the Eisenhower Matrix, or print out your copy of the Decision Maker’s Matrix I developed for Visionary Leaders.

Fill it out with all of the to-dos that are currently on your plate. 

Don’t limit yourself to business. If you’ve got personal things on your plate, write them down. 

It’s ALL connected and it all counts.

Now, take a look at that list and circle the ONE thing that is calling out to you the most.

Maybe it’s standing out on the page because you’re excited about it, or maybe it’s because it’s been weighing on you.  The key here is not to overthink it.  Just go with your gut.  I promise, you know what to circle.

Do you have it? Good.

Now, here’s my challenge to you, Visionary.

Because I want to support you, and I also want to challenge you.

Be honest with yourself. What would life look like and feel like 7 days from now if you knock that thing off your list?  What about if you don’t?

Which future do you want to create?

Next I’m going to challenge you to think about how you can carve out AND protect just 20 minutes for the thing you circled on your list. 

20 minutes of pure focus.  No notifications popping up, no interruptions from clients or team members or family members.

You don’t need to wait until that long weekend, or that quarterly retreat you’ve always wanted to plan for yourself. You don’t need to go lock yourself in an Airbnb for a week to create this time for yourself. 

You are a Visionary.  And you can do A LOT with 20 minutes.

Make that commitment. Now.

Once you make that commitment and spend that time on the things you need to focus on, pure magic happens. So many incredible things lie in store for you and your business.

This will put you in the realm of exponential growth – rather than just incremental growth.

Do you feel that shift yet?

Take it a step further and treat it like the crucial, sacred time that it is.

Don’t pretend this is time with your biggest client.

It’s even more important than that.  This is your Visionary Power Time.

Once you’ve shown yourself you can do this for 20 minutes.  I’ll challenge you to increase that to 60.

If that sounds crazy, it’s not.

It’s why I created a weekly Visionary Power Hour for my clients.  

It’s on their calendars, and it’s on mine. Same day, same time each week. We show up on Zoom, and after each leader confirms what they’ll be focusing on for the hour, we turn off our cameras, we turn off our mics, and we get DOING.  

Since they know they’ve got this time carved out and protected each and every week, the things that are ‘important but not yet urgentstop falling to the bottom of their lists.  Instead, they come to the forefront, and the results are amazing.  Not just what my clients accomplish, but how they FEEL because they shifted from reactive to proactive.  And that ripples out into the rest of their week.

So dedicate your own Visionary Power Time. It will help you by leaps and bounds. I promise. 

>>And if you want IN on my weekly Visionary Power Hours, click HERE and let’s talk.

If you waste time chasing opportunities, you’ll only get further away from your goals.

Here’s an idea I learned from an incredible sales trainer, Bill Caskey.

He preaches that if you don’t invest time upfront in your Vision, you’ll end up wasting so much more time chasing deals and opportunities. When we do this, we move further and further away from where we truly want to go.

But when you DO invest time upfront in your Vision, you will always get an exponential return on that time.

You will get SO much energy back by allowing yourself the time to think and focus on the things that are important – but not yet urgent. 

Are you a Visionary leader who finds yourself fighting fires all day?

Are you tired of feeling pulled in different directions, unfocused, and consistently unable to make time for Visionary thinking?

This is exactly what I help my private leadership coaching clients with. 

To shift from reactive and scattered to proactive and intentional, I invite you to book a Discovery Call with me.

In this 60-minute session, we’ll dive deep into the root cause of what’s holding you back and determine the fastest path to gaining clarity not just on where you want to go, but how to get there.

Book your complimentary Clarity Breakthrough Call HERE.

Until next time, Visionaries!

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